The notorious Pompey hardman now revelling in Irish anonymity

In our three-part series, Neil Allen talks to Pompey Hall of Fame inductuee Mick Kennedy, who petrified opponents but prefers the quiet life now.

Sunday, 4th March 2018, 6:47 am
Updated Sunday, 4th March 2018, 9:14 am
MOTLEY BUNCH Mick Kennedy, front row, second left, with the 1986-87 Pompey promotion-winning team ahead of their final match against Sheffield United

The photograph resides on the apartment’s front-room wall.

Within the surrounds, it offers sole pictorial evidence of the County Clare resident’s previous incarnation.

It depicts a motley bunch of footballers, captured by camera moments before kick-off against Sheffield United.

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Former Pompey skipper Mick Kennedy

The date was May 1987, the Fratton Park occasion the final match of a glorious promotion campaign for Alan Ball’s Division One-bound side.

‘There were a few sore heads in that photograph,’ chuckled Mick Kennedy.

‘They were the best days of my career, without a shadow. Great times, fabulous lads, so many good players.

‘I’ve got another photograph with us stood outside the Pompey pub a few days earlier after a few beers, it’s not framed though.

Former Pompey skipper Mick Kennedy

‘Everyone who comes into my apartment notices that picture taken before Sheffield United and asks “Were you a footballer?” That’s because a lot of them don’t know.

‘I don’t go around telling everyone I played the game. I live about 15k from my previous Irish home at my parents’ place. I’m now in Ennistymon, so a lot of people wouldn’t know me.

‘That’s great, I don’t want to be recognised. I cannot deal with it, talking the same old rubbish every day.

‘Half the time they will see me and know me and ask about Manchester United, but haven’t a clue what they are talking about.

‘It’s not their first love, that’s hurling and Gaelic football, it’s nonsense round here. I don’t tell them my background, the only thing they know is I played for the Republic of Ireland and that will do them.

‘I don’t want to get into a conversation about football, they don’t have a clue, so I don’t bother. That is probably half the reason why I don’t go into a pub a lot!

‘Still, my Pompey Hall of Fame award will be the new pride of place in my front room soon.

‘I am the happiest man in the world getting that, believe you me.’

For three-and-a-half seasons, Kennedy stalked Pompey’s central midfield with a snap and a snarl.

He became Ball’s third Pompey signing when recruited from Middlesbrough in June 1984 – and would epitomise that indomitable team spirit generated by a roguish collective.

When owner John Deacon eventually banked his asset with a £250,000 sale to Bradford City days following victory at Southampton, it sparked a plummet towards Division One relegation.

The move outraged the Fratton faithful, while the best period of Kennedy’s footballing career was brutally severed.

He made 149 appearances and scored five goals for the Blues – and on Friday will be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame at a Fratton Park gala dinner.

In doing so, the 56-year-old follows the lead of team-mates Alan Knight, Noel Blake, Kevin Dillon, Mick Quinn, Billy Gilbert, Mick Tait and Vince Hilaire.

However, much to his dismay, ill health dictates he cannot attend the occasion.

Kennedy added: ‘I would love to be there, how many players get that honour? But unfortunately I can’t for health reasons.

‘Don’t make it out I am dying or anything! It’s not the end of my days yet, I’m going to be 57 next month!

‘I want to be there, 100 per cent, but if I can’t be there, I can’t be there. I just hope some people don’t take it the wrong way.

‘If I could be there I would because I want to see my old house in Lovedean, the Cowplain Social Club and Fratton Park. I love that ground, I love it with every bone in my body.

‘I hear there’s a big Tesco around the back of the Fratton End now. If they ever left that stadium it would break my heart.

‘The atmosphere, walking out that tunnel, fantastic. You would see the so-called bigwigs, Vinnie Jones and that lot, and you’d glare over, shouting over them, then the reception from the fans was frightening. Did I love that!

‘Nottingham Forest, Spurs, we beat so many teams down there in cup games before we went up. We struggled when we did get promoted, but years before were beating teams left, right and centre, good teams at that.

‘They wouldn’t like coming to Fratton Park, they knew they were in for a right game here.

‘I remember at home to Forest in the League Cup in September 1984, with Brian Clough their manager. We were leaving our dressing room with Forest’s in front of ours, closer to the end of the corridor on your way out.

‘I gave it the usual “Come on, let’s do these” and punched this window, which I didn’t realise had wire in and it was like a wall. The blood was pouring out of me.

‘So all I was doing was rubbing this blood on my face, I must have looked off my head to those Forest players. I didn’t care, we beat them 1-0.

‘When I was told about going into the Hall of Fame, though, I didn’t think it was true.

‘I was never that flamboyant type of flair player, like Kevin O’Callaghan, or a goalscorer like Mick Quinn for scoring, I wasn’t that kind of player.

‘So I am absolutely over the moon to get an honour like that. I know I should be there, but unfortunately I just can’t.

‘It’s a hard pill to swallow, believe you me, a hard pill.’

Despite earning two caps for the Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton, Kennedy was born in Salford.

Qualifying through his parents, he returned to the country of their birth 24 years ago – and has remained ever since.

Ennistymon is a market town situated on the west coast and the idyllic setting for football’s notorious hardman now seeking quieter time.

Kennedy said: ‘The beach is only a kilometre down the road, so I go for a walk and get my newspaper, have some dinner and hire a taxi back.

‘That’s the way I keep active, it’s not too bad. And I’ve still got dark hair, although with a tint of grey!

‘It’s a lovely place, with a typically long Irish street containing every shop under the sun, bar a cobblers and a sports shop. There’s even two supermarkets, so you don’t want for anything.

‘I also have a beautiful, beautiful apartment, I couldn’t wish for more.

‘I know back in Pompey there’s a little group that used to call me ‘Scully’, well tell the Scully fans I’m wishing them all the best.

‘And tell the rest of them, I love them all to bits.’